Three Jailed Lao Workers Were Also Fined, Sources Say

Rights groups have slammed the harsh sentences handed down for Facebook posts criticizing the Lao government.

From left: Soukhane Chaithad, Lod Thammavong, Somphone Phimmasone.

Three Lao workers given long prison terms in a secret trial in April for criticizing their government in Facebook postings while working in Thailand have also been hit with fines, sources close to the three now say.

Somphone Phimmasone, 29, his girlfriend Lod Thammavong, 30, and Soukane Chaithad, 32, disappeared in March 2016 after returning to Laos to renew their passports, family members and friends told RFA’s Lao Service in earlier reports.

Charged with criticizing the Lao government online while working abroad, the three were handed prison terms ranging from 12 to 20 years in sentences described as harsh and unjust by rights groups worldwide.

As a part of their sentences, still unpublicized by the courts, the three jailed workers were also fined, relatives have now learned after visiting two of the three in prison.

Somphone, aged 29 and sentenced to a 20-year term, has been fined 210 million kip, equal to about U.S. $26,000, one source told RFA, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Soukane, aged 32 and sentenced to 16 years, was fined 106 million kip, equal to about U.S. $13,000, the source said.

Lod, aged 30 and given 12 years, was fined 110 million kip, almost U.S. $14,000.

“They have been fined so much money that they will never be able to pay it,” one relative told RFA.

Reached for comment, an official at the People’s Supreme Court in the Lao capital Vientiane denied any knowledge of the case, even when given the three imprisoned workers’ names.

“We do not remember all the suspects who have been sentenced,” the court official said. “It seems that many are convicted each day.”

In a statement released in May, the Paris-based Federation of International Human Rights (FIDH) called the workers’ sentences “a shocking reminder of Vientiane’s intolerance for any form of peaceful dissent.”

“By locking up dissidents for up to two decades, the Lao government has abandoned any pretense of compliance with the country’s international human rights obligations,” FIDH president Dimitris Christopoulos said.

Reported by  RFA’s Lao Service. Translated by Ounkeo Souksavanh. Written in English by Richard Finney.